Notes from a newcomer
Marion thinks back to the Easters of her childhood and wonders where the joy has gone.
A conversation with younger colleagues made me realise how completely Easter traditions have died away. One of them was amazed to learn that it used to be customary to eat fish on Good Friday. Really? Yes, really - and you couldn't go out and buy it on the day because all the shops were closed.
A brief survey round the office revealed that nobody under the age of 40 had ever puzzled over the words of the hymn 'There is a Green Hill Far Away Without a City Wall'* for the simple reason that they had never sung it.
Now that Easter is just another Bank Holiday when supermarkets remain open and airports are packed with people seeking the sun, the only traditions we keep
up are the edible ones.
Hot cross buns appear in the shops a good two months ahead of Good Friday but I bet there aren't many children who chant 'One a penny, Two a penny, Hot Cross Buns, If you have no daughters, give them to your sons!'
We consume enough Easter eggs to keep Thornton's very busy indeed. And some people still bake a Simnel cake with its 12 (or should that be 11?) marzipan balls on top. In many parts of the country, saffron bread was a regular part of the Easter feast. A feast all the more relished after the Lent period of fasting. I don't know anyone who gives up anything for Lent, these days. Apart from the vicar, who nobly abstains from Kit Kats.
Although Good Friday might have been a gloomy day with all the shops closed and only fish on the menu, it was also a day off work and, with the weather warming up a bit, the perfect day for a walk in the country. Families and friends got together for a sociable ramble to enjoy the sight of new-born lambs and hedgerows bursting with fresh green leaves. Picking wild flowers was legal so children gathered bunches of primroses and violets for their mothers.
A friend who grew up in Lincolnshire tells me that in his village Good Friday was the day when folk set their potatoes.
As chocolate eggs were an expensive treat most children were given only one or two. However, they had the fun of decorating their own hard-boiled eggs with pretty patterns or funny faces. Another Easter treat for children, and adults as well, was a new outfit to wear to church on Easter Day. Londoners wore their best clothes to watch the Easter Parade in Battersea Park.
More fun was to be had on Easter Monday with informal games organized in the nearest park or on the village green. Adults as well as children joined in the
egg-and-spoon and sack races. It's still a day for sport but now people are more likely to be watching football than playing it (especially after eating all those Cadbury cream eggs).
* It makes more sense when you learn that 'without' means 'outside'